Last week Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa launched a state-of-the-art Lung Laboratory within Wits University’s Department of Pulmonology at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg.

According to the MEC, the new treatment facility is intended to holistically treat lung cancer patients from disadvantaged communities using diagnostic and interventional therapy. The new Lung Laboratory serves the Chris Hani Baragwanath, Charlotte Maxeke and the Helen Joseph hospitals.

The Lung Laboratory was established as a centre of respiratory excellence as part of a R20 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF). The BMSF has also committed $10 million to addressing AIDS-related cancers in southern Africa.

“There are very few families that have not been affected by cancer. But we also know that cancer can be conquered if treated and diagnosed early. But in many instances, like some of the patients that came in to this facility, the diagnosis was too late,” said the MEC.

“It can’t be business as usual. We need to push back the frontiers of illness and trauma in our communities. We shouldn’t just do this for the rich who can afford to be in oncology programmes and get incentives for buying healthy food. It must be for the benefits of all citizens in the country,” continued the MEC.

Researchers at the Lung Laboratory will also gather data and explore the reasons behind the emerging pandemic of lung cancer, which will be used to educate the community about the disease.

“This is important so we can understand it more and understand what it responds to optimally and what interventions work best for which kinds of patients,” said the MEC.

The MEC concluded the unveiling of the Lung Laboratory by saying that under National Health Insurance (NHI), she hopes to ensure that more state-of-the-art facilities which boast diagnostic and therapeutic modern technology will be available to those who need it most.

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